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Airbus just executed the world's first 100% sustainable aviation fuel helicopter flight

The company aims to be 100% SAF certified by 2030.

Airbus just executed the world's first 100% sustainable aviation fuel helicopter flight
The H225 helicopter used for the SAF flight test. Airbus

Airbus carried out the first-ever helicopter flight using 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The aviation giant used an Airbus H225 for the world-first flight, powered by two Safran's Makila 2 engines, a press statement reveals.

It's part of the aviation industry's wider goal to dramatically reduce emissions as part of a global initiative aimed at averting the worst effects of climate change.

The world's first 100% SAF helicopter flight

Back in November 2021, Airbus also flew an H225 using SAF, though that time one of the two engines was powered by regular fuel and the other with SAF. Airbus has also tested SAFs and other alternatives on airliners in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint.

The aviation industry as a whole accounts for more than two percent of all global human carbon emissions, and the industry has committed to the goal of reaching net carbon emissions by 2050.

In its statement, Airbus said it will also test other types of helicopters with different fuel and engine architectures to test the effects of SAF on the machines. Currently, all Airbus commercial aircraft are certified to fly with up to a 50 percent blend of SAF and the company aims to certify the use of 100 percent SAF by 2030. It also aims to reduce CO2 emissions from its helicopter by 50 percent by 2030.

"This flight with SAF powering the twin engines of the H225 is an important milestone for the helicopter industry. It marks a new stage in our journey to certify the use of 100% SAF in our helicopters, a fact that would mean a reduction of up to 90% in CO2 emissions alone," said Stefan Thome, Executive Vice President, Engineering and Chief Technical Officer, Airbus Helicopters.

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Aviation firms turn to SAF and hydrogen to cut carbon emissions

In March, Airbus also performed the first-ever A380 flight powered by 100 percent SAF, which was made mainly out of cooking oil and other waste fats. One of the main benefits of SAF and other drop-in fuels is that it typically allows aircraft to use the same engines and maintain the same performance as with traditional fuel. Still, Airbus is also testing other alternatives such as hydrogen-electric propulsion.

The company said it aims to equip one of its massive A380 airlines with a hydrogen engine by 2026. Unlike the A380 SAF-powered flight, the aviation firm will have to develop a modified engine capable of withstanding the higher temperatures required for the burning of hydrogen fuel. 

Looking further ahead, Airbus also announced zero-emissions hydrogen concept aircraft as it aims for a future of greatly reduced carbon emissions. Other companies, including Rolls-Royce, are also running SAF tests in a bid to help the aviation industry play its part in the face of catastrophic climate change.

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